Sympathy for Ashli Babbitt

“I can’t believe this is reality.” I do not know his name or anything else about the young man who shouted this on Wednesday afternoon as he entered the Capitol, his voice combining lunatic urgency with the boredom of someone playing a video game. But one thing I do know is that he is likely still alive.

This is not true of Ashli Babbitt, the unarmed 35-year-old Air Force veteran from San Diego, who was shot by Capitol Police as she attempted to climb through a hole that had been smashed in a door just outside the Speaker’s Lobby. Babbitt is dead. It was her death that I and millions of others were unwittingly referring to when we shared reports that firearms had been discharged inside the building just before 3:00 p.m.

Unlike the young philosopher on the steps, Babbitt is someone about whom I know a great deal, thanks to the dubious miracle of social media. Future historians will be able to tell us more about her final hours than they can Lincoln’s. We know where she was, with whom, what she was doing and seeing, and exactly what she thought about all of it, almost minute by minute, as she entered upon what would become her funeral march.

Babbitt’s husband has referred to her as a great patriot. A brother-in-law has described her as “loyal as well as extremely passionate.” A decade ago she was an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama. After that her political views evolved along a not unfamiliar trajectory, from progressive to libertarian to Trumpist to an initiate into the mysteries of QAnon, that half world of centaurs and aegipans lurking in the darkness, locked in unseen combat with the heavenly host.

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In the days and weeks leading up to her death, Babbitt announced on social media that she intended to visit Washington; she tweeted that “the storm” was descending, that the darkness would be “made light,” that the crimes and perfidies of the cabal would be revealed and the corrupt order overthrown in some final and unimaginable purgation.

Is this what she saw as she joined with the crowd she referred to as a “mob,” whose size she estimated at some three million, gleeful as she walked, telling a video audience that she was happy to be among those with “boots on the ground?” What did she believe in her final moments? Did she, too, ask herself whether this was “real”? Did that smiling, eerily resigned face guess that she was about to die from a police bullet, that her corpse would be shown to a live audience of millions on MSNBC with one of her breasts visible, that she would haunt us like a specter from whatever unknown country deaths are live streamed in?

So much of what we know about Wednesday is inconclusive. As so many of us discovered this summer, piecing together “the facts” from embedded Twitter videos and Reddit posts and the frequently contradictory testimony of eyewitnesses is not likely to yield the sort of …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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